In light of the Jaspal Singh Atwal controversy, Canada needs to wake up and act swiftly against Indian agents who might not only be spying on Indo Canadians, but could also be making their lives difficult through their moles.
Just recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India was eclipsed by the presence of a former Sikh separatist and a convicted man on his guest list.
Atwal was previously associated with a banned terrorist group, the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF).
He was invited to dinner with Trudeau at an event hosted by the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi.
The ISYF was involved in an armed insurgency for the creation of a Sikh homeland of Khalistan in Punjab, India, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1986 Atwal was convicted for attacking a visiting Punjab cabinet minister, Malkiat Singh Sidhu, in B.C. The then ISYF member was charged with attempted murder for shooting at Sidhu and has served his time.
Atwal was also charged and subsequently acquitted of assaulting former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh, who is an outspoken critic of religious extremism.
The appearance of Atwal's name on the guest list and a widely circulated photo of him with the prime minister's wife has obviously embarrassed Trudeau. The prime minister was already being blamed by Indian government officials for going soft on Sikh separatists in Canada.
It's believed that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi snubbed Trudeau during his recent visit.
Not surprisingly, Trudeau has come under attack from right-wing commentators in India who want him to act against Khalistan supporters in Canada. The Atwal issue has added more fuel to the fire.
The ISYF was banned after 9/11. The group was involved in violent activities when the Khalistan movement was at its peak before it died out in the early 1990s.
The movement was decimated partly because of state repression and partly because it lost popular support due to excesses committed by Khalistani extremists.
However, many suspect that most of the excesses, such as rapes and senseless killings of innocent Hindus, were committed by Indian agents who penetrated the movement to give it a bad name.
Several counterterrorism operatives who disguised themselves as militants have already spilled the beans.
Atwal is a changed man and does not support Khalistan anymore. Rather he supports the Akali Dal, the party Malkiat Singh Sidhu belonged to.
The Akali Dal is an alliance partner of Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party. But considering Atwal's background, his presence in India during Trudeau's visit became controversial and has also given some credence to conspiracy theories.
A section of the media in Canada and India has pointed out that Atwal has some ties with the Indian consulate in Vancouver.
Even a senior Akali Dal official in Delhi, Manjit Singh GK, who personally knows Atwal, has stated that the unwanted controversy over Khalistan and Atwal was created by the Indian intelligence network to sabotage Trudeau’s visit to India.
GK also claimed that when Atwal visited India on previous occasions in India, he had met some intelligence people.
A senior security adviser in Trudeau's administration, too, suspects that Atwal’s presence in India during the prime minister’s visit was part of a design by India. It continues to look for an opportunity to target Canada on the Khalistan issue.
Trudeau is under constant attack in India for appointing at least two Sikh ministers, Harjit Singh Sajjan and Navdeep Singh Bains, whose fathers were associated with World Sikh Organization. The WSO once supported the demand for a sovereign Sikh state.
Though Trudeau has endorsed the views expressed by his officer on the conspiracy theory, the opposition has vehemently rejected it.
Atwal has stated that he has not just been a supporter of the Liberal party and Trudeau, but has been supporting politicians from other parties, too.
He's claimed to have supported Jinny Sims, a former NDP MP and currently minister of citizen services in the B.C. NDP government.
Sims is known to be close to the pro-India lobby of so-called moderate Sikhs who helped her in the parliamentary election in 2011. She defeated the sitting Liberal MP, Sukh Dhaliwal, whom they accused of pandering Khalistanis.
Sims, however, has denied knowing Atwal well.
The pro-India lobby is also very close to the Indian consulate in Vancouver.
Dhaliwal, meanwhile, has come under fire for raising his voice on behalf of victims of an anti-Sikh massacre in India in 1984.
Notably, Dhaliwal and the federal NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, have each been denied visas by the Indian government for taking up this issue.
Last year, when Singh was running for the NDP leadership, he alleged that the pro-India lobby was trying to discourage many from supporting his campaign.
Ironically, the Indian government that often accuses Canada of patronizing Khalistanis has already removed many names from its blacklist of Sikh separatists active overseas.
Atwal is one of those whose names have been removed due to a major change in the situation in Punjab.
This explains how he might have received a visa to travel to India.
If the Indian government is so concerned about Khalistanis in Canada, we all need to know why and how Atwal was granted visa by a country that continues to question the Canadian government over this issue again and again.
This reflects rather badly on the Indian government that continues to create a false fear of a movement that died long ago.
Otherwise, why scrap the so-called blacklist of Sikh separatists?
This is not the first time that the role of Indian agencies in Canada has come under question.
There's a section within the local Sikh community believes that the Air India bombing was the handiwork of Indian spies who wanted to discredit the Khalistan movement.
All 329 people aboard Air India Flight 182 died on June 23, 1985, in the bombing, which was blamed on Sikh extremists in Canada. It followed the repression of Sikhs in India in 1984.
In June of that year, the Indian government ordered a military attack on the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, in Amritsar. This was done to flush out religious fanatics who had stockpiled arms inside the place of worship.
The military assault left many innocent pilgrims dead, causing widespread outrage among Sikhs. There was a huge demonstration in Vancouver, where the Indian consulate office was vandalized by angry Sikhs.
Later that year, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. This led to a state-sponsored massacre of Sikhs across India in early November 1984.
Authorities in Canada believe that Air India was bombed by Khalistanis to avenge ugly political events of 1984. But some Sikh activists claim otherwise. They not only denounced the bombing, but also blamed Indian officials of carrying out the operation to malign the Khalistan cause outside India.
It's not a viewpoint that's given much coverage at all in the mainstream media.
The Air India investigation remains inconclusive, with the bomb maker, Inderjit Singh Reyat, remaining the only suspect convicted so far. The mystery about other potential suspects remains unsolved.
One of these suspects, who was never charged let alone convicted, was Hardial Singh Johal. He was reportedly close to an Indian agent in Vancouver, while the alleged mastermind, Talwinder Singh Parmar, was killed by Indian police in 1992 under suspicious circumstances.
In 1987, at least three Indian diplomats were identified as spies who were reportedly meddling into local Sikh politics.
Only recently, several Sikh temples across Canada announced that they won’t let Indian officials come and speak to their congregations to stop their growing interference in community affairs.
Apart from all this, there have been reports how Indian diplomats try to frighten critics of the Indian government in Canada and elsewhere by denying them an Indian visa.
The current situation demands that the Canadian government act urgently to find out which people may have subjected Trudeau to embarrassment for ulterior motives to serve the interest of the Indian state.
Not only should these agents be kicked out of Canada, if these actions were indeed committed by agents, any sleeper cells that may exist in the country must also be exposed.
Even those who might be holding public office or managing Sikh temples must be identified and punished—if they're beholden to a foreign state—to put such interference to an end.
Even for the sake of those who not ready to accept such conspiracy theories, such an investigation is important to establish the truth.
An online petition seeking an investigation into the activities of Indian agents has already received closed to 3,000 signatures.
As the issue refuses to die, the number of signatures is likely to grow.
Launched by Radical Desi, the link to the petition can be found at change.org.More